As first impressions go, it was pretty spectacular.
Defensive end Zachary Lackman made his debut performance under Island Coast football coach Wayne Blair a memorable one Friday night when he blocked an extra-point kick to seal a 28-27 defeat of host Fort Myers in the Gators' annual spring game.
Blair was hired last month to replace Joe Bowen and he seemed destined for a deadlock in his opening night outing, after Green Wave quarterback Dylan Degroot hit Terrance Moore with a five-yard scoring pass with 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to bring Fort Myers within a point.
An unsportsmanlike conduct call after the touchdown made the PAT a bit more than routine. Pushing it back by 15 yards and presenting Lackman with a chance to play the hero's role as the team got set to charge into an offseason full of weightlifting and morale-building.
"The outside guy (on the Green Wave offensive front) stepped down and gave me a clear line and I just booked it as fast as I could and just laid out for my team," Lackman said, holding up the left arm that swatted the ball away as he stretched his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame to near-horizontal lengths. "It was an amazing feeling knowing I got the win for this team. It was glorious."
The play ended a chaotic encounter that featured a season's worth of big plays, untimely penalties and lead changes, as the teams alternated scores and never seized an edge of more than seven points.
Island Coast got a pair of TDs apiece from runningback Van Edwards and wide receiver Ryan Pulley, three of which were at least 36 yards in length. Edwards scored on runs of 65 and 76 yards in the first and fourth quarters, while teammate Pulley caught a seven-yard pass from quarterback Kory Curtis in the second quarter and hauled in a 36-yarder from the soon-to-be sophomore in the third.
Curtis engineered three of the four scoring drives for the Gators and was 6-for-13 for 173 yards in the opening phase of competition for the starter's role with returning senior Quinn Bourque, who was 6-for-9 for 39 yards and carried the ball eight times for a composite total of zero yards.
"It's a competition. One guy's going to play and one guy's not," Curtis said, reflecting what Blair told the signal-callers as they prepped for the three-month offseason before returning to the field for the 2014 season debut on Aug. 22 at East Lee County. "I felt like I did well, but I feel like I need to be better so I can win the starting job. (Bourque) a senior and I'm going to be a sophomore, so I need to do better. I feel like I've got to work harder and just beat him out in everything."
The contrast is clear in both physicality and style, with Curtis standing 6-foot-3, weighing 200 pounds and fitting the standard drop-back quarterback prototype; while Bourque is 5-foot-10, weighs 170 and is much more an improvisational player with a tendency to create outside of the pocket.
"He's like a Manziel and I'm more like Peyton Manning," said Curtis.
Island Coast 7 7 7 7 - 28
Fort Myers 14 0 7 6 - 27
FM - Moore 1 run (Daugherty kick)
IC - Edwards 65 run (Curtis kick)
FM - Mercer 32 pass from Degroot (Daugherty kick)
IC - Pulley 7 pass from Curtis (Curtis kick)
IC - Pulley 36 pass from Curtis (Curtis kick)
FM - Felix 3 run (Daugherty kick)
IC - Edwards 76 run (Curtis kick)
FM - Moore 5 pass from Degroot (kick blocked)